Thursday, March 25, 2010

Please Do NOT Let the Food Wars Begin

Category: TV Show Review

More and more, the Travel Channel is beginning to resemble Food Network 2. Series hosted by chefs Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods and Bizarre World) and Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations) are long-running staples on the network. Recent food-based additions have included the Adam Richman glutton-athon known as Man V. Food (which weekly paraphrases the old country song "How Many Biscuits Can You Eat This Morning?"), the 101 Chowdown Countdown, and Best Places to Pig Out.

Add to the Channel's line-up a new series from the producers of Man V. Food, a series titled Food Wars. This is simple enough: host Camille Ford goes to cities where rival restaurants each claim they have the "best" food specialty and invites five people to a blindfolded taste test.

The problem is, Ms. Ford doesn't have it as a host: not Bourdain's profanity-laden biting observations, not Zimmern's Midwestern (via New York) charm and humor, and not Richman's bottomless stomach.

I watched both opening night shows, featuring a Chicago beef sandwich battle and arguments over Buffalo's Buffalo wings. Although the background of the restaurants (especially with the origins of food staples such as the Buffalo wings, created by the owner of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo) was informative, the show simply lacks the spice that gives Richman heartburn on a weekly basis. And, honestly, a 3-2 vote settles nothing, as the conclusion of each episode proves: the people who prefer Duff's over the Anchor Bar haven't been persuaded, and fans of Al's beef sandwich in Chicago conclude the show by badmouthing Mr. Beef, and vice versa (which should be a warning: talking smack about a sandwich the way people do about the Cubs or the White Sox?), totally contradicting the claim that the show will "settle the food wars, once and for all."

No doubt there will be shows about the Cincinnati chili havens (Gold Star or Skyline) and probably more "is it barbecue with a spice rub or with sauce" arguments -- all of which have been already dealt with on numerous occasions on other shows, and in a much more rewarding manner to the viewer. While the majority of the food shows on the Travel Channel are at least enjoyable and at most cannot-miss, this is not one of them.

And, honestly, enough with the food shows. I don't want Samantha Brown's next travel show to be "Samantha Brown Visits Shoney's."

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